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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A bully's pulpit

Reading Franklin Graham's most recent peacock strut on Facebook- advanced by a cousin of mine- I saw afresh what a shameless poseur he is, trading on the good name his father built in a lifetime of ceaseless travel and preaching.

His is the art, perfected in these social media days, of getting people het up enough to- at minimum- click "Like" and "Share" on his daily diatribes, and then, ideally, to send him money. He makes over $800,000 a year, an eyebrow-lifting sum to most comparable organizations' heads.

"Like"- click. "Share- click." I feel so much better now.

So now I will add my Facebook Comment, at Graham's urging: Here is what I am willing to "take a bullet for..."

What a mockery of real courage- both in the Bible, and the present day. In my lifetime, dozens, if not hundreds, around the world have set themselves alight to draw attention to situations so dire that searing, hideous death is a more compelling future than continued life.

I found a 2011 article from Time that recalls the sad roster of who show up Graham's gasbaggery:
"When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight on Dec. 17, he sparked flames far greater than the ones that would ultimately kill him. The Tunisian man, an unemployed college graduate with children to feed, had tried finding work hawking vegetables, but was thwarted by police, who confiscated his cart. So in a grisly act of protest and anguish, Bouazizi doused himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. 
"The act of self-immolation not only triggered the current political crisis in Tunisia, which ousted the president Jan. 14 and has led to a complicated political impasse. It also inspired copycat self-immolations across North Africa, who attempted this very sensational form of suicide as statements of their own desperation and frustration with the authoritarian regimes in their countries. The latest count of protesters who have set themselves on fire in North Africa is up to eight, with four in Algeria, two in Egypt and one in Mauritania, as well as Bouazizi's act in Tunisia... 
"The first and most famous moment of self-immolation as agitprop was that of Thich Quang Duc in 1963. Under the rule of Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam largely advanced the agenda of the country's Catholic minority and discriminated against Buddhist monks. In one of the most dramatic instances of individual protest, Quang Duc doused himself in gasoline in the middle of a Saigon street and lit himself ablaze. 
"Journalist David Halberstam, who witnessed the monk's self-immolation and won a Pultizer Prize for his war stories, remembered the moment in one of his books, The Making of a Quagmire: "Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning flesh. ... Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think." 
"Afterward, four more monks and a nun set themselves ablaze protesting Diem before his regime finally fell in 1963. Rather suddenly, setting oneself on fire became a political act. As the American presence increased in Vietnam in the mid- to- late 1960s, more and more monks committed self-immolation, including thirteen in one week. It even took place in the U.S., right outside the Pentagon, when Norman Morrison, an American Quaker burned himself to death while clinging onto his child as a mark of his rejection of the Vietnam War. (His child survived, and Morrison was revered in Vietnam for his purported martyrdom.) 
"The grim tactic has spread across the globe: Czechoslovaks did it to protest the Soviet invasion in 1968; five Indian students did it to protest job quotas in 1990; a Tibetan monk did it to protest the Indian police stopping an anti-Chinese hunger strike in 1998; Kurds did it to protest Turkey in 1999; outlawed Falun Gong practitioners did it in Tiananmen Square in 2009, at least according to authorities in Beijing. 
"Only within the last few weeks have such acts of self-immolation caught on in North Africa. They seem to all come out of moments of urgency and helplessness. And sometimes they light fires in the minds of countless others in their midst."
Vietnam was America's first television war, watched over dinner on the news. Now we have the Pharisees of televangelism, comfortable in their TV studios and in social media posts tapped out by staff members, re-enacting Luke 18:11 with no sense of irony whatever.

Last year it was one of Glenn Beck's tearful, Mentholatum-fueled rants:
“The number in the Black Robe Regiment is about 70,000 now,” Beck said. 
“The number that I think will walk through a wall of fire, you know, and possible death, is anywhere between 17,000 and 10,000. That is an extraordinary number of people that are willing to lay it all down on the table and willing to go to jail or go to death because they serve God and not man.” Garlow was in complete agreement, saying that the necessity of being willing to die is “honestly where we are.” “We’ve come to that moment,” he said. “People like you and me and, thank God, many others are digging in very deeply and laying the benchmark of where we’re going to stand on these issues.” “You’re going to see these 10,000 to 20,000 pastors begin to stand up,” Beck promised, “and say ‘it doesn’t matter if I lose my church, it doesn’t matter if I lose my building, it doesn’t matter if I lose my life, I will not sit down!'”
Last year, too, we saw another politicovangelist, Rick Scarborough, flicking his Bic:
"We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary we will burn."
Later, when he kept giving interviews day after day- none from hospital burn ward- Scarborough Emily Litella'd himself right out of that pledge before God:
"I made that comment to paraphrase a spiritual song, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” in which the three were given a choice — to bow to the image of Nebuchadnezzar or burn in a furnace. “We will burn” means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting [last Friday’s] Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm."
Now here's Franklin Graham, dusting the fake soot from Beck's and Scarborough's texts:
What would you take a bullet for? What are the principles and beliefs that you would not compromise under any circumstances? Even if it meant putting your life on the line? 
King Nebuchadnezzar who reigned over Babylon issued a decree that everyone worship the golden image he had made. Three men who knew the one true and living God, refused to worship the king’s idol—their names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king told them, “But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Here is their bold reply: 
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18). 
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood firm in obedience and faithfulness. They stood up for God’s truth. They stood up for their faith, and they didn’t waiver, even when it meant putting their very lives at risk. I want to call on every Christian and every pastor to stand firm like these patriarchs of old and not bow to the secular, increasingly godless culture in which we live—even when (not if) we’re criticized, mocked, and labeled intolerant. The God of the Old Testament that delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from their fiery execution is the same God today—and He is still more than able to save. Will you stand against ungodliness? What are you willing to take a bullet for?
Winston Churchill summed up this sort of nonsense in his memoir of the Boer War:
"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."

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